How The Fugees’ ‘The Score’ Brought Haiti And Hip-Hop Together

The release of The Fugees’ sophomore album, The Score, is an indelible moment in hip-hop. Powered by the project’s first single, “Fu-gee-la,” which arrived officially a little over a month before the album’s February 1996 release, The Score was both critically acclaimed and a record-breaking commercial hit, becoming the best-selling rap album ever at the time of its release. Twenty-five years later, as fans cautiously get hyped about a confirmed Fugees reunion tour, it remains the best selling album by a rap group in the U.S.

Beyond what The Score represents to hip-hop fans — especially the generation that came to love it as one of many in a year of amazing hip-hop albums — The Fugees’ career-saving second release was a cultural moment for Haitians across the world, but more specifically Haitian-Americans. The children and grandchildren of immigrants who had arrived to this country instantly became double-minorities. Kids whose parents avoided teaching them French or Haitian Kreyol in hopes of protecting them from the discrimination that often comes with accents in America, and who were teased mercilessly because of the cultural norms their parents insisted on maintaining despite their new residence or naturalization status.

For the Haitian-American kids who didn’t quite fit in with the other English/Patois speaking West Indians in Brooklyn; who dealt with all the H.B.O. — “Haitian Body Odor” — jokes in the early ‘90s; and who literally formed a gang in South Florida to put an end to the bullying, The Score was a long-awaited, grand-scale win.

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